Corn syrup producers want sweeter name: corn sugar

September 14, 2010 By EMILY FREDRIX , AP Marketing Writer
This undated television advertisement provided by The Corn Refiners Association, shows a corn maze shaped like a question mark. The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to change their image with a new name: corn sugar. The Corn Refiners Association is filing an application with the Food and Drug Administration, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, to get "corn sugar" approved as an alternative name for food labels. (AP Photo/The Corn Refiners Association) NO SALES.

(AP) -- The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to sweeten its image with a new name: corn sugar.

The Corn Refiners Association applied Tuesday to the federal government for permission to use the name on food labels. The group hopes a new name will ease confusion about the , which is used in , bread, cereal and other products.

Americans' consumption of corn syrup has fallen to a 20-year low on consumer concerns that it is more harmful or more likely to cause obesity than ordinary sugar, perceptions for which there is little scientific evidence.

However, some scientists have linked consumption of full-calorie soda - the vast majority of which is sweetened with - to obesity.

The could take two years to decide on the name, but that's not stopping the industry from using the term now in advertising.

There's a new online at and on television. Two new commercials try to alleviate shopper confusion, showing people who say they now understand that "whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference. Sugar is sugar."

Renaming products has succeeded before. For example, low eurcic acid rapeseed oil became much more popular after becoming "canola oil" in 1988. Prunes tried to shed a stodgy image by becoming "dried plums" in 2000.

The new name would help people understand the sweetener, said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group.

"It has been highly disparaged and highly misunderstood," she said. She declined to say how much the campaign costs.

Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally the same, and there's no evidence that the sweetener is any worse for the body than sugar, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The bottom line is people should consume less of all sugars, Jacobson said.

"Soda pop sweetened with sugar is every bit as conducive to obesity as soda pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup," he said.

The American Medical Association says there's not enough evidence yet to restrict the use of high fructose corn syrup, although it wants more research.

Still, Americans increasingly are blaming high fructose corn syrup and avoiding it. First lady Michelle Obama has said she does not want her daughters eating it.

Parents such as Joan Leib scan ingredient labels and will not buy anything with it. The mother of two in Somerville, Mass., has been avoiding the sweetener for about a year to reduce sweeteners in her family's diet.

"I found it in things that you would never think needed it, or should have it," said Leib, 36. "I found it in jars of pickles, in English muffins and bread. Why do we need extra sweeteners?"

Many companies are responding by removing it from their products. Last month, Sara Lee switched to sugar in two of its breads. Gatorade, Snapple and Hunt's Ketchup very publicly switched to sugar in the past two years.

The average American ate 35.7 pounds of high fructose corn syrup last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's down 21 percent from 45.4 pounds 10 years before.

Cane and beet sugar, meanwhile, have hovered around 44 pounds per person per year since the mid-1980s, after falling rapidly in the 1970s, when high fructose corn syrup - a cheaper alternative to sugar - gained favor with soft drink makers.

With sales falling in the U.S., the industry is growing in emerging markets like Mexico, and revenue has been steady at $3 billion to $4 billion a year, said Credit Suisse senior analyst Robert Moskow. There are five manufacturers in the U.S.: Archer Daniels Midland Inc., Corn Products International, Cargill, Roquette America, and Tate & Lyle.

Corn refiners say their new name better describes the sweetener.

"The name 'corn sugar' more accurately reflects the source of the food (corn), identifies the basic nature of the food (a sugar), and discloses the food's function (a sweetener)," the petition said.

Will shoppers swallow the new name?

The public is skeptical, so the move will be met with criticism, said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

"This isn't all that much different from any of the negative brands trying to embrace new brand names," he said, adding the change is similar to what ValuJet - whose name was tarnished by a deadly crash in 1996 - did when it bought AirTran's fleet and took on its name.

"They're not saying this is a healthy vitamin, or health product," he said. "They're just trying to move away from the negative associations."


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1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2010
F**k the Corn Refiners Association, and their attempt to Trojan Horse the billions of ignorant consumers out there that will be poisoned with HFCS, and any one who supports them in doing so.

You could, with just as much logic, re-label tobacco tar/nicotine as "Tobacco Sugar", or BPA as "Plastic Sugar", in order to make them appear safer or more innocuous to poorly- or non- informed "consumers". Unfortunately, this has no effect on the ACTUAL HARMFULNESS of these compounds.

This smarmy manoeuvering is a perfect example of why I so often am contemptuous of anyone exalting the inherent beneficence of Capitalism or the "Free"Market. At every turn, we are reminded that corporations are operated almost solely to generate profit, and feel no compunction to act for the good of their customers, but rather only to obtain the dollars of their customers, and by whatever means available to them.

The Google/Verizon vs Net Neutrality policy fight also springs to mind.
not rated yet Sep 14, 2010
We have been HFCS free and notice the difference in our health. Wikipedia is a good start for information. Watching the advertisements on TV for a name change two years down the road says something too.
not rated yet Sep 14, 2010
Why not end the sugar subsidies allowing sucrose to be sold at world market price?
not rated yet Sep 15, 2010
The Corn Refiners Association can sell excess syrup inventory to bio-fuel processors, and qualify for an abundance of Gov. subsidies for doing so.

Trying to legislate an uphill battle against consumer demand, by deceptively re-naming food labels, risks alarming consumer advocates, and further poisoning market share in the food sector.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2010
Favoring this deceptive practice places the Corn Refiners squarely within the fraternity of corporate scum, which factor rewards of lawless conduct, and liability risk, as just another cost of doing business.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2010
amen to above comments
5 / 5 (2) Sep 19, 2010
Interesting how this article seems to have been forgotten. Even the so called impartial scientists don't seem that impartial.

Fructose sugar makes maturing human fat cells fatter, less insulin-sensitive
5 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2010
No different than calling table sugar "dehydrated cane juice". Stupid people are waiting with their mouths open.

Personally, HFCS gives me the trots and it's way too sweet. Real corn sugar is dextrose, as any homebrewer would know.

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